Special Education and Accessibility Self Evaluation Tool

Citation

Brooks,S.; Braun, S., Backe, K.; Arbuckle, S. and Jones.C. (2021) Special Education and Self Tool. OSU Extension Service Outdoor School Program. https://outdoorschool.oregonstate.edu/about-us/research-evaluation-asse…

Background

This tool is part of a suite of self- tools developed by the Oregon State University Extension Service Outdoor Schools program to evaluate 5th- and 6th-grade outdoor school programs in the state of Oregon. While the tools are designed for outdoor education programs as part of public schools (or formal education), the creators of the tools they can be applicable to other formal, non-formal or informal contexts. The three self-evaluation tools include the following: 

  • Instructional Resource Self-Evaluation Tool (IRSET): 
  • Cultural Responsiveness Self-Evaluation Tool (CRSET)
  • Special Education and Self-Evaluation Tool (SEASET)

Format

The tool is presented as a set of three self-evaluation rubrics, one for each of three themes: 

  1. Collaboration and Compliance 
  2. Facility and Program 
  3. Teaching and Learning 

Each rubric has between three and four characteristics and definitions that allow the evaluating stakeholders to qualify each characteristic as absent, emerging, and/or highly effective. An additional column provides space for you to record evidence or specific examples for the qualification(s) that you chose. A Special Education and Accessibility Report, Reflection and Improvement Plan template is provided to summarize results across all three rubrics. This template can also be used to  facilitate team reflection and discussion to strengthen your organization in the areas of special education and accessibility.

Audience

This tool can be used to help any type of program become more inclusive and accessible, specifically for students with exceptional needs.

When and how to use the tool

Programs are encouraged to use this tool as part of a healthy evaluation cycle in which they evaluate, learn, and improve their programs. There are myriad opportunities to understand and improve services to ensure all students feel welcome, safe, respected and free to participate in environmental education and outdoor activities.

The authors of this tool recommended five steps for conducting a special education and accessibility self-evaluation:

  1. Assemble a team representing a variety of roles within your organization as well as members, constituents and caregivers. 
  2. Ensure that every member has a basic understanding of access and of exceptional students in outdoor activities. 
  3. Individuals on the team read each characteristic and its definition (the far left column of each table). Estimate quality of alignment with that characteristic, circling “absent” “emerging” or “highly effective.” In the final column, provide evidence or example(s) for your choice.  
  4. Discuss as a team which characteristics were absent, emerging and/or highly effective. Discuss how these results impact the students and communities you work with. 
  5. Complete the Special Education and Accessibility Report, Reflection and Improvement Plan. Celebrate the strengths and outline actions to improve accessibility and inclusion.

How to analyze

Use the “Special Education and Accessibility Report, Reflection and Improvement Plan” to review the self-evaluation.

  • Calculate individual team members’ ratings of each characteristic, which will allow you to see which characteristics are absent, emerging, and/or highly effective.
  • Spend time discussing the characteristics that you will prioritize for your program in order to be more accessible and inclusive for students with exceptional needs. Think through the challenges and the to making your program more accessible and inclusive. Think through the ways you will better serve your community with these goals. 
  • Use the improvement plan to outline the changes that need to occur in order to become more accessible and inclusive. Be specific about what needs to be done, who will be involved, and when you plan to implement them. 

What to do next

Don’t let your Special Education and Accessibility Improvement Plan just sit on a shelf. Be sure to engage the right people to activate the changes you’d like to see. Consider which additional stakeholders, community members or constituents should be involved in the improvement process.

How to see if this tool would work with your program

This tool can be used for any program that seeks to authentically engage in understanding how it can be more accessible and inclusive for students with exceptional needs.

Tool tips

There are several things to consider when engaging in a self-evaluation to be more accessible and inclusive. 

  • The tool was developed for use in the Outdoor Schools Program in Oregon, and some of the characteristics may not apply to other programs or locations. 
  • This work is ongoing, dynamic and challenging. Commit to do the work in order to better address the needs of your community. 
  • Recognize the dynamics within the evaluation team. Ensure appropriate voices are engaged in the evaluation and authentically utilize those with expertise and experience with students with exceptional needs. 
  • Team members may not always agree on whether characteristics are absent, emerging or highly effective. The discussion that results from disagreements will help your organization become more culturally responsive. 
  • More tips on using this tool are available in the extensive tool guide created by Oregon State University Extension service.